By Stephen Smoot
“I’m glad you’re here. You’ll learn a lot today.” Steve Conrad, Pendleton County Farm Bureau president, told Pendleton County seventh graders in front of the community building on a chilly, but bright morning last week.
The seventh graders in the morning, then eighth in the afternoon learned vital safety lessons. Local experts instructed students on safe practices while using power take off equipment, guns, and fire extinguishers. They also learned about staying safe in the sun and safety tips on rabies.
At the power take off, or PTO, presentation, local experts demonstrated the dangers of carelessness. Students learned that tractors and other such equipment run between 540 and 1,000 revolutions per minute. Volunteer instructor David Seymour explained that without the proper safety equipment, it is “very easy to get tangled up.” He added that “if you get hooked up on these, it could be life ending or physically destructive.”
Conrad shared an anecdote explaining the danger of carelessness around equipment. He said that he once saw the hem of a farmer’s pants get caught in PTO machinery, then explained that the man was lucky to be wearing old and easily torn pants because “in a second, he was standing there in just his shorts.”
Greg Mitchell, who works for Farm Credit of Virginia and is a Farm Bureau board member, assisted in the demonstration. He explained that students must “be aware of the dangers on the farm and hopefully prevent injuries with them and their families.”
With so many adults and children using ATVs to enjoy area scenery, or just make short distance trips, safety training on these vehicles is imperative. Brooke Alt, WVU Extension Agent for Pendleton County, said “As a youth, I was involved in a minor ATV accident that terrified me.” This fuels her passion for teaching kids the proper equipment, attire, and rules for operating an ATV safely.
Alt also helped to organize the entire event. Conrad explained, “the Farm Bureau owes a debt of gratitude to Brooke Alt. She has done the lion’s share of the work to get everyone involved.”
With deer season approaching soon, lessons in gun safety assume even larger importance. Although nothing can replace respect for firearms and discipline in their use instilled in the home, West Virginia Department of Natural Resources Police Sergeant Adam Kuykendall gave vital instructions on how to carry and use a gun safely.
As Sgt. Kuykendall explained to each group, “you can’t erase a bullet once you shoot. Always practice P. I. D. or positive identification before you shoot.”
One of the most deadly dangers on either homes or farms comes from fire. According to a National Fire Protection Association study, “West Virginia, Mississippi, and Arkansas are all among the top 10 states for at least five of the major risk factors and had the three highest average state fire death rates.” Bruce Minor, Roy Rose, and Terry Hedrick from the Franklin Fire Department instructed students in fire safety and correct use of a fire extinguisher. Understanding the dangers of fire, how to react, and how to stay safe are important lessons for home or farm.
In farm work, recreation, or any other activity done under the hot rays of the summer sun, sunburns create skin damage that accumulates over time. As Andrea Reel from the Pendleton County Health Department told the students, even tanning beds can add to a lifetime of accumulated sun damage that can end in cancer.
Reel explained how to effectively use sunscreen to ward off cancer causing damage. Among other important instructions, she said that sunscreen has a three-year shelf life, recommended always using at least 30 SPF, and also taught that no sunscreen is completely waterproof when either swimming or sweating.
The West Virginia Office of Epidemiology and Prevention Services released a study several years ago containing a county by county survey of rabies in animals. Between 2000 and 2014, Pendleton County saw 151 total cases of known animal rabies. Many cases involved cows and goats.
To guard against this danger Brooke Hott, from the health department, had students spin a wheel of important questions that led to important information on how to identify animals with rabies, how to deal safely with them when needed, and the importance of vaccinating pets.
Alt explained that she learned in surveys that “several students had stories of how they had been hurt or did something carelessly before today.” She hoped that lessons learned during the event would help to avoid tragedies later.
She added that “teaching them how to put out a fire, how to properly ride an ATV, or even about how to prevent skin cancer are things they may already know, but today was a good refresher for them. To some of the students, this was new information . . . Keeping them healthy and safe is a top priority.”